Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor – Why This is a Must During Menopause
Written by Dr. Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, FACOG, Chief Medical Officer
When it comes to strength training, you probably envision the usual gym set up with big barbells, loads of free weights and buffness everywhere. Newsflash ladies, working out isn’t just for biceps and glutes anymore; there’s never been a better time than now, to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
What is the pelvic floor anyway?
This group of pelvic muscles is responsible for supporting the pelvic organs (uterus, bladder, urethra and rectum) and keeping everything all tucked away, nice and cozy. These muscles are crucial to maintaining continence (control of urine and stool) and of course, during sexual function.
So why do some women have weak pelvic floor muscles?
Over time and with age, muscles weaken and the pelvic floor muscles aren’t spared. If your mom had pelvic relaxation or ‘prolapse’, you might be at higher risk since there is a genetic component to pelvic muscle strength. The wear and tear of having babies, especially those ten pounders, can weaken muscles as well. Excess body weight puts mechanical pressure on the bladder and urethra. More baggage means more risk of leakage. During menopause hormone changes can lead to urinary frequency, urgency and concerns about leakage.
What can be done to help that isn't too invasive?
- Moderate your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a bladder irritant and diuretic and typically produces that “urge to go”.
- Optimize your weight. I recommend the Mediterranean diet or intermittent fasting if possible to maintain a healthy weight.
- Time your urination to every two hours while awake to keep the bladder from becoming over distended and lessen the chance of accidental leakage.
- Control allergy or cold symptoms. A decongestant or cough suppressant might be in order from time to time.
What is weight training for the pelvic floor?
If that belly laugh, sneeze, cough or gallop on the treadmill results in light bladder leakage, kegel exercises are in order, STAT! Imagine this: contract your pelvic muscles as if you are “holding it in super tight”, hold that pose for 10 seconds or so, relax all and then repeat that 10 or 20 times a day.
Voila! You have just done kegel exercises, designed to tone and strengthen the pelvic floor and help to control urine leakage.
Do these regularly, at anytime and anywhere for maximum benefit. Some women choose to use light vaginal weights to up their game. Believe it or not, there’s even an app for that. Devices such as the KegelSmartTM or Elvie TrainerTM use bluetooth and biofeedback to optimize kegel exercise benefits, with progress all monitored on your smartphone.
Ready… set…squeeze! Your bladder will thank you!